Go Cold, Go Bold
For years the U.S. had a series of floating ice stations in the Arctic. These stations, supplied by icebreakers and long range aircraft, endured from 1952 to 1974 and the last abandoned one in existence, ARLIS II, drifted through the Fram Strait in 1983, after being monitored for over 30 years.
In recent years, with the polar region now under increasing pressure from the
Soviets Russians, the Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL), based in San Diego, has been running an annual Ice Exercise (ICEX), a multi-week drill designed to research, test, and evaluate operational capabilities in the region.
The latest, part of ICEX 2016, uses a West Coast sub, USS Hampton (SSN 767) from San Diego, which surfaced through the pack earlier this month, and USS Hartford (SSN 768) from Groton, Connecticut, to set up U.S. Navy Ice Camp Sargo (as well as pick up their Order of the Blue Nose certificates).
Sargo consists of temporary shelters, a command center, and infrastructure to safely house and support more than 70 personnel at any one time. It will house more than 200 participants from four nations over the course of the exercise.
U.S. Navy and Coast Guard divers execute a dive under an ice flow in the Arctic Ocean during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2016 at Ice Camp Sargo on March 10, 2016. Units – Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, Regional Dive Locker West and Regional Dive Locker Pacific
The camp gets its namesake from USS Sargo (SSN 583), the first submarine to conduct a winter Bering Strait transit in 1960 and a subsequent North Pole surfacing. ICEX 2015’s base camp was Ice Camp Skate after USS Skate (SSN 578), the first U.S. submarine to surface through arctic ice at the North Pole in March, 1959; while ICEX 2014 had Ice Camp Nautilus named of course after USS Nautilus (SSN 571), which made the first transit under the pole in 1958.